Pro: Fast Fashion forefront of accessibility
Earth Day makes us all more conscious of our effect on our planet. However, with it comes consumerist guilt over where we buy our clothes.
Fast fashion has been the topic of many social and environmental discussions, especially in recent years. Defined by Oxford Languages, fast fashion is “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.” While there are many issues that should be addressed, such as the exploitation of workers, the social and environmental blame should not fall on the consumers, but should rightfully be placed on the corporation.
Fast fashion has become the equalizer of fashion. Due to its affordability, new trends are no longer limited to the elite. According to Reviews in History, those of the working class during and before the Victorian era were often too busy and poor to afford to dress with the current trends. Mass produced clothes were originally aimed towards the working class to make work clothes while clothes reflecting fashion trends would be made by artisans, and would therefore be expensive to buy. However, with the shift of creating trendy clothes for the masses, everyone, including the working class can participate in fashion trends. Fast fashion’s accessibility eliminates the elitism that surrounds fashion and provides a means for creativity for everyone regardless of income. However, recently, the hatred towards it implies another classist call.
Many will argue that thrifting is a sustainable way to purchase clothes, however some have taken advantage of nonprofit organizations like Goodwill and overbuy clothes to resell on for-profit sites like Depop. According to Vox, this has led to the gentrification of thrift stores, otherwise known as overbuying clothes for profit, usually by those with higher income, which inadvertently raises prices of thrifted goods. Due to the low supply and high demand of secondhand goods, low-income shoppers could be priced out of thrift stores in their area, forcing them to turn to fast fashion. It is not fair for people who have the means to shop elsewhere to criticize low-income communities who buy from fast fashion when they are the reason these communities can not buy from their local thrift store. This mentality is toxic in its classism, as now only the wealthy can afford to be ethical or sustainable.
In addition, others may say that buying from fast fashion would turn a blind eye to the exploitation of workers in the textile industry and that by refraining from purchase would make companies more conscious of their production methods. While that may be true in some sense, the idea that there is “no ethical consumption under capitalism” comes to mind, as its meaning was to take the wrongful blame off of poor communities and place it onto the corporations who prioritize profits over people. Most sustainable and ethical brands are often too expensive for lower-income households to afford, which again makes being “sustainable” and “ethical” a class issue. The wealthy can have the moral high ground for not buying from unethical fast fashion brands, when in reality, they just make being sustainable and ethical difficult for lower-income communities. So while protesting the corporations who do buy from unethical sources is great, we must be aware that not everyone has the means to do the same, and therefore should not be blamed for contributing to the source of the problem. We all have a part to play in working towards a more sustainable fashion industry, so we should all be conscious of where we shop and how it affects the communities around us.
Ultimately, the issue of fast fashion is more intricate than meets the eye. To be a conscious shopper is to think about the environmental and social impacts of the brands you shop at. One of the best ways is to buy only what you need, regardless if it is from a fast fashion brand or from the thrift store. Reducing the amount of clothes we consume is the most energy efficient method of saving the environment. And if financially able, shop from sustainable brands, but try not to point fingers at people who do not have the same means. It’s pretentious and elitist.
“I think fast fashion provides an amazing opportunity for people to express themselves, and I especially appreciate the affordability aspect that makes it accessible to anyone who enjoys fashion and design. However, I do believe there is an urgent need for us to be mindful of the waste we create, meaning that fashion should be more intentional rather than mass produced. I do think it’s significant to understand, though, that practicing sustainability—in all aspects and not just fashion—can be a privilege.”
Tiffany Gomez, English teacher
“The current shift into buying secondhand fashion encouraged by popular YouTubers like Bestdressed or even political figures like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is overall a very good trend to combat clothing waste and ensure that we reuse clothing to their full extent, but at the same time this shift has also led to influencers and teens into gentrifying and keeping people who actually needs the clothes from thrift stores from getting those clothes. For example, a lot of lower-class plus-sized people shop at thrift stores, but that whole oversized clothes trend has created a decrease in products for those people. Additionally, overconsumption with gentrifying thrift stores just recycles the worst parts of fast fashion into thrifting and buying secondhand. So overall, a good solution but still need to be mindful of how much we consume and what we consume.”
Ria Singh Thakur, senior
Vy Nguyen is a senior and staff writer for El Vaquero. Nguyen is also a copy editor. This is her third year on staff.
Con: Faulty Fast Fashion practices threaten environment
As we enter prom season, students may resort to fast fashion stores like Shein for their dresses where prices range from $20 to $30. But with access to trendier dresses at lower prices, is this too good to be true?
Fast fashion is the practice of producing cheap and trendy clothes that is readily accessible and meets high consumer demand at fast rates. With constantly evolving fashion trends, apparel is discarded after a few uses allowing consumers to move on to the next trend to stay relevant and trendy. While fast fashion keeps us looking good at affordable prices, consumers need to realize it contributes to the ugly reality of overconsumption and heavy pollution.
The fast fashion industry largely contributes to the world’s deteriorating environmental status since the textile industry is extremely polluting. It takes up to 200 tons of fresh water to dye and finish just one ton of fabric and the chemicals that are used are harmful to the environment since they run off into streams and bodies of water affecting the wildlife, according to Pebble Magazine. Not only that, but fast fashion contributes to 100 million tons of waste produced per year along with many other repercussions, according to Fashion Revolution.
Fast fashion further encourages trends to move at rapid rates and enforces throw-away culture. According to an article by Nature, around 60 percent of all clothing produced is disposed of within the year of production. Trends are getting circulated faster because of social media, and in order to maintain individuality, these crazes are getting replaced faster each time. Factories keep up with this rapid change by producing clothing items at quicker rates which delivers lower quality items that are thrown away faster and fill up our landfills. According to The Ethical Consumer, a company can have an article of clothing designed, manufactured and on sale 10 days after being pictured on a celebrity. Viewers are eager to hop onto the biggest trends and many blame celebrities for the rise in disposable fashion. Fast fashion is made appealing due to many factors but this does not disregard the highly damaging effect it has on our planet.
While some may argue that stores like Shein and Aliexpress are the only places they can afford, thrift shopping costs just as much or even less, plus allows you to support the planet through sustainable shopping. A vast amount of energy goes into clothing production, but through thrifting, you skip the excess waste of energy during the manufacturing process of new clothes. Similarly, clothes are made with synthetic and unnatural materials that do not degrade, so by donating your clothes they can be used by others which prolongs the life of the item and keeps it out of the landfill. Second-hand shopping is a simple and easy way to lower your carbon footprint while updating your wardrobe and supporting your community. Most thrift stores use their profits to better the community and support local charities, so instead of supporting big corporations like Shein who have unethical values, you can instead support a business that aims to support others.
Shopping fast fashion negatively impacts our planet, but this all circles back to negatively impacting the consumer themself. Some ways we can collectively work against this is by shopping more ethically and making our existing clothing items last longer. This prom, try visiting your local thrift store or consignment store to shop for a unique or even vintage prom dress, helping you save money and our planet. No matter how you’d go about switching to a more sustainable fashion lifestyle, make sure you have fun with it as you go about this journey.
“Specifically within the past decade, the detriments of fast fashion have become more apparent, and require so much more attention if we want to slow overconsumption and subsequent climate change. We must utilize what is already in our closets, or if we want certain pieces, thrift. Not only is thrifting a great way to combat the fast fashion trend cycle, but it also allows its shoppers to develop a more unique and dynamic sense of style – not to mention how much money it saves. If a certain piece of clothing is no longer useful to you, donate it. There are so many great second hand stores in Orange County. Do your research, and shop responsibly.”
Lily Mathey, junior
“My concerns with fast fashion include the lack of consideration to what happens when you’re done with the product, but more to do with what went into making the item in the first place. One needs to also consider all the energy and resources that went into making the various fabrics that make up the garment. We can think of simple items like a cotton shirt or basketball shorts- cotton uses a lot of water, but synthetic materials are made from petroleum products (and then there’s microplastics that these items dispense into the environment when they get washed which can adsorb toxic persistent pollutants). Additionally, there is the petroleum used to wrap each garment individually in plastic and for the transportation of the product to its final destination. I like to think of how many uses I’ll get from the item along with the aforementioned concerns when deciding if I want/need that next item of clothing.”
Bre Eagleson, science teacher
Meghaa Saravanan is a junior and a staff writer for El Vaquero. Saravanan is also on the social media team and a photographer. This is her first year on staff.